WOONSOCKET — High school basketball coaches have a lot in common with teachers who send their students through rigorous courses like physics or chemistry. Hoop mentors must stand on the sidelines, trying to explain the finer points of their sport, while players try to absorb those lessons in the midst of competition.
East Providence’s Alex Butler and Woonsocket’s Kyle Ivey-Jones did their best to educate their players on Wednesday night when the Townies visited the Villa Novans for a battle between two sub-.500 Division I teams.
Players on both sides stumbled through some basic fundamentals, such as shooting the ball effectively, or passing the ball to their teammates. Only one player on the floor demonstrated a pure shooting touch. East Providence’s Joe Carnevale hit six three-point field goals and finished with 24 points while leading the Townies to a 53-40 victory.
E.P., now 4-5 in league play, led 27-15 at halftime before the Villa Novans stepped up their defensive intensity, created several turnovers, made a few shots and closed to within 41-38 after Edwin Jones hit a three-pointer with four minutes left in the game.
The sparse Woonsocket crowd began to clap their hands instead of sitting on them. This year’s Woonsocket team, now 1-8 on the season, apparently is best watched quietly, and with great compassion.
“We finally started to play pressure defense,” Ivey-Jones said. “But we can’t pick and choose when we want to start playing hard. I keep telling the kids that this is a 32-minute game. We just can’t play in spurts.”
After Jones woke up the crowd, Carnevale then missed a three-pointer and Woonsocket had a chance to tie this game. Woonsocket’s Korey Lawrence missed connections on a jump shot and Carnevale answered with another three-pointer. Teammate Derek Andreolli (11 points, 8 rebounds) then stole the ball and made one of two free throws for a 47-38 lead at the three-minute mark.
After a Woonsocket turnover, Carnevale got another open look and drained his final trey of the night to restore a 10-point lead at the 2:25 mark.
The Townies were coming off a 56-43 victory over Division I-North leader La Salle Academy. They played this game without point guard Jawaan Lyles. Robbie Delgado started in his place.
“Robbie did a good job,” Butler decided. “We let them back in the game because we started missing shots. We panicked a little bit and started to press. But then we made a couple of defensive stops. It’s all part of the learning curve for this team, playing without our point guard.”
Ivey-Jones, who led Woonsocket to the state finals three years ago and to the playoffs each of the last two seasons, is the same coach this year as he has always been. He looms over his players, administering tough love and criticisms at the same time, pleading for them to do what they are taught in practice.
“It’s not a matter of (a lack of) talent,” he said. “We’re just not executing what we are taught. I can’t change my methods of coaching. Do I want this to be the worst season since I started coaching here? No. Definitely not. I want our kids to pick up a few wins before the season is over so they can start feeling good about themselves.”
Woonsocket got 17 points from Jones and eight from Lawrence. Andreas Brackett, Flavio Barros and Kodie Spearman played hard under the boards. The Villa Novans just don’t shoot the ball very well. That was the difference on this occasion because E.P. had one pure shooter who kept throwing in long bombs when left open.
Alex Butler’s Townies still have playoff hopes to fulfill. The former all-stater at E.P. wants to win games while imparting a few learning lessons along the way.
“Coaches have a lot in common with teachers,” Butler said. “We’re trying to teach the players about basketball and teamwork and being accountable to each other. At the end of the night, it isn’t really about winning the game. It’s about what we have learned during the game that we just played.”
E.P. visits a tough Smithfield team on Friday night while Woonsocket will host Hope High.